Bhubaneswar: The Supreme Court on Thursday disallowed the annual Rath Yatra in Odisha’s Puri. Now there will be no chariot pulling of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra and all other activities associated with the annual programme also stand cancelled. This year the yatra was scheduled to be held on June 23.

The Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra, which is considered one of the biggest chariot festivals in India, was scheduled to be held on June 23 this year. To mark the celebrations, the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are pulled on the Grand Road from the Jagannath temple to Gundicha temple over a distance of 2.5 km. 

Every year, lakhs of devotees throng to the coastal town of Puri to catch the glimpse of Rath Yatra, marking the largest-ever religious congregation in Odisha. The Lord Jagannath rath yatra and activities connected to it will not be allowed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court said.

The order was passed in a plea by an NGO Odisha Vikas Parishad which had pointed out the public health risk involved if the annual event is allowed to take place. The NGO  in its petition said the annual rath yatra in Odisha’s Puri will draw some 10 lakh people, putting them at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic. The rath yatra amid the COVID-19 pandemic “will be an invitation to infect lakhs of devotees”, adding that the Odisha government has also not allowed religious places to open before June 30. The yatra involves pulling the chariot of Lord Jagannath as he comes out of his temple in this annual event. The pulling of chariot involves close contact between the people, which violates the social distancing norms.

Twelve temples in Balasore district, six in Mayurbhanj, five in Sambalpur, two each in Kandhamal, Bolangir and Gajapati had earlier announced that they will not hold the Rath Yatra outside the temple premises. All the temples, including the Shree Jagannath temple in Puri, are closed across the state for devotees since March 22 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.